HC Deb 07 April 1873 vol 215 cc648-9

said, he thought it would be interesting to the House If the First Commissioner of Works would explain the meaning of the specimen of the new encaustic work which had been put up in the Central Hall of the Houses of Parliament, and whether the right hon. Gentlemen was going to fill up the vacant niches with that specimen?


said, he was not able to magnify the specimen referred to into dimensions such as would fill the vacant niches, as the hon. Member had suggested. That specimen had been hung up because it had been produced by an eminent firm, who considered that they had discovered, and were able to carry on, a process of wall decoration which was perfectly indestructible, and would not be liable to any accidents such as had unfortunately befallen the frescoes on various walls of the Houses of Parliament. He thought it desirable, as the specimen in question was a copy from the original work, which had been put up in mosaic in the Central Hall, that the two should be hung up side by side, in order that those who took an interest in the subject might be enabled to compare one with the other, and see which produced the most agreeable effect—if anything particularly agreeable were produced by it. If those who were interested, and were able to form a good judgment upon this question, should think that the mode of decoration exhibited in the specimen was better than glass mosaic, then it would be open for consideration whether it might not be used instead, because it would possess this advantage—that it would represent ultimately the actual work of the artist, and not be a mere mechanical copy in small pieces of mosaic; and also this further advantage—that whereas for the work in the Central Hall £150 was paid to the artist who designed it, upwards of £500 was paid to the mechanics who exhibited it in the present form. That did not appear to him to be a mode of patronizing fine Art, although it might be a good way of patronizing mechanical art. It was, however, always understood that the walls of the Houses of Parliament should be made as available as possible for patronizing fine Art in this country, and he thought it desirable to find some means by which the works of artists could be painted on the walls in a durable manner. The painted frescoes had not succeded, and by the deliberate decision of the House last Session it was determined in Committee of Supply, that no further attempt should be made to adorn the walls with fresco paintings. It was, therefore, necessary to find some other means of adorning, and they must either have works of art or mere mechanical devices, which might be new, or which might be a mere revival of the works of a semi-barbarous period of decoration.